11:52 AM

New American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation makes significant investment to increase academic support for students


The new American Family Insurance Dream Foundation Inc., is pledging $1 million to Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to boost academic support in schools. It's the first major investment from the new Foundation which is committed to strengthening families and communities.

Boys & Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) is getting financial support from both American Family Insurance and The Burke Foundation to help close the achievement gap among low-income and minority students in Verona and Madison Metropolitan School Districts.

The Burke Foundation is granting $2.3 million over the next three years and the new American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation Inc. is pledging $1 million over five years to support the Club’s signature academic programs – operated in partnership with school districts – the College Club and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) / Teens of Promise (TOPS) college preparedness programs.

“American Family and The Burke Foundation have both been committed supporters of our efforts for years, and their generous investments will help put more than 1,000 students on the path to realize their greatest potential,” says Michael Johnson, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County.

Johnson says the grants will help Boys & Girls Club expand academic tutoring to help more students improve their grades and graduate from high school, being prepared for college and/or careers. In addition, the investments will expand the Club’s capacity to provide more tutors, mentors, summer internships and scholarships for our local students.

Since 2008, Boys & Girls Club has worked with the Madison School District to ensure students of color and those from low-income households are college-ready, enroll in college and graduate from college at the same rates as white students.

Eighty-four percent of BGCDC members live at the federally-defined poverty level, 95 percent are students of color, 51 percent come from single-parent households, and 38 percent qualify for free or reduced meals from the public schools.

“Statistically speaking, these children are less likely to experience success at school, complete high school, and enroll in and graduate from college,” says Johnson. “These are the young people who need us the most.”

AVID/TOPS helps students in the academic middle who will be the first generation in their families to attend college. The program provides strong academic and social support, college preparation guidance, career exploration, and mentoring. In just five years, the AVID/TOPS program has shown to be effective in raising academic achievement, graduation rates, and rates of college entrance for African American, Latino and low-income students in Madison.

Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab from the Wisconsin Hope Lab has been tracking the progress that is being made with the AVID/TOPS program and its impact in the community. The Hope Lab is the nation’s first laboratory of translational research aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education.

“We’ve been working with the Wisconsin Hope Lab to evaluate the AVID/TOPS students’ performance and are excited about the progress students are making in realizing their dream of earning a college degree,” says Mary Burke, Chair of the AVID/TOPS Steering Committee and Board Member of the Burke Foundation.

“American Family’s investment through our Dreams Foundation underscores our commitment to strengthen families whose circumstances may hinder their ability to pursue and achieve their dreams,” says Judd Schemmel, community investment director of American Family Insurance. This commitment to BGCDC is the first major commitment for the new American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation Inc. and the launch of a new community investment strategy for the Madison-based company.

“For nearly 90 years, corporate philanthropy has been a staple of our culture,” says Schemmel. “By building relationships with nonprofits that align with our Foundation’s focus, we’re helping with short-term needs, and we’re identifying long-term opportunities where we can make a difference closing achievement and attainment gaps in our communities,” says Schemmel.

The Milwaukee Bucks are also partnering with Boys and Girls Clubs to provide a new youth education incentive program. One of the team’s owners, Wes Edens, has announced that he will donate his two courtside seats for eight games this season to Madison-area students who show measured improvement in the areas of literacy, behavior and attendance. In addition, the Milwaukee Bucks will donate an additional 30 tickets to each of these eight games. In total, this incentive program exceeds a $55,000 gift from the team.

“Wes Edens and our entire ownership group have set out to have an impact in the community from the first day they arrived in Wisconsin,” said Alicia Dupies, Vice President of Community Relations for the Milwaukee Bucks. She added, “We feel strongly about empowering the next generation to Own Their Future – and not just in Milwaukee. We are excited to partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County and look forward to surprising these deserving young students.”


About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wis.- based American Family Insurance is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company and ranks 358th on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General, Homesite and AssureStart) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the Internet or by phone. Web:; Facebook:; Twitter: Google+: